Romance of Spanish History - John S. C. Abbott
The Royal Family.—Inglorious Reign of Isabella II.—Revolutionary Attempts.—Political Parties.—Banishment of the Duke and Duchess of Montpensier.—Increasing Discontent.—Retirement of the Court to San Sebastian.—The Insurrection.—Flight of the Queen.—The Provisory Government.—Arguments for the Monarchy.—The Constituent Assembly.—The Vote.—Testimony of General Dix.—Spirit of the new Constitution.—Difficulties of the Patriots.—The Struggles of Humanity.
An intelligent English traveller visiting Spain some years ago, gave the following account of the appearance of the royal family at that time. It was just before the marriage of Isabella and Louisa.
"This being Sunday, I had an excellent opportunity of seeing the royal family of Spain at their devotions. The royal chapel in the palace is open to the public, and I entered, without question, shortly after noon. The service commenced at one o'clock. A few moments before that hour, Christina and her two daughters, Isabella and Louisa, entered the small royal chamber in front of the altar, and immediately knelt down to take part in the service. All three were dressed in black, and wore nothing upon the head but mantillas.
"Queen Isabella is grown a little taller and much plumper. In fact she inclines so much to embonpoint that I should not be surprised if, in the course of a few years, she should rival Donna Maria of Portugal. Ever since her infancy Isabella's gait has partaken a good deal of an ungainly waddle, a common failing among the Spanish Bourbons. And now that she manifests so strong a tendency towards corpulency, her dancing is not the most pleasing spectacle. Thus at the court ball, when Francisco danced with her, she astonished the spectators with something like elephantine gambollings.
"Her face is not improved, the lower parts presenting a still more marked resemblance to the portraits of Ferdinand VII. Her eyes are of a bright color, and not unpleasing. The contour of her face is perfectly round, and, with rather a sharp nose, gives her something of the aspect of those physiognomies which decorate ancient china tea-cups. The mantilla, however, became her well; I think better than the Parisian bonnet and mignon parasol which she sports in her carriage on the Prado. Queen Isabella is by no means deficient in ability, being endowed with a prodigious memory—with a deal of cunning at least, if not of judgment. She is likewise fond of raillery, and has a good deal of sarcastic wit, with which she peppers her amanti, Don Francisco, considerably. I am assured that, with all her defects, she is high-minded and queenly, and has many noble qualities; and I trust she may develop them progressively, as she grows older, for the welfare and prosperity of Spain.
"Her sister does not improve in appearance as she grows up. Her infantine graces have merged somewhat into coarseness, but she may still be almost regarded as beautiful. Her features, like her mother's, are longer and more Italian than her sister's, and her complexion purer. Her grace of attitude and movement is remarkable, a quality which she inherits exclusively from Christina. She is certainly a charming young person, and looks wonderfully well in her dark crape dress and mantilla. She was born on the 30th of January, 1832. Whether Montpensier lose the inheritance of Spain or not, he will have found in her an enchanting wife, and France a princess who will look to advantage even by the side of De Joinville's Brazilian beauty. It is commonly reported that there is no Bourbon blood in Louisa's veins. She is probably the daughter of Montez.
"Christina, who seemed even to outdo her daughters in devotion, and who joined in the service with much fervor, is evidently breaking up. Her face is beginning to wear a somewhat haggard expression, and her figure to lose its graceful and rounded contour. The unremitting toils of intrigue have stolen on her nocturnal hours, and the atmosphere of political manoeuvre, out of which she can not exist, has paled the roses which once adorned her cheeks, and cast a deeper shade upon her brow."
Should Isabella die without offspring, the crown of Spain would pass by legitimate descent to Louisa, the Duchess of Montpensier. France, of course, espoused the cause of Isabella. England also, for state reasons, advocated her claims. Sustained by the armed intervention of these powers, the banners of Isabella so gained that finally the partisans of Don Carlos became disheartened. Several of the chiefs of the two parties met in conference, and the Carlist chieftains gave in their submission to Isabella II.
This was in 1839, During the years which have since passed, Spain has for most of the time reposed in the stagnation of absolutism. The few feeble, spasmodic efforts which have been made to throw off the chains of despotism have been unavailing. The people, as a body, had become so degraded that they showed no wish to escape from their inglorious lot. In the year 1848, when a general democratic uprising agitated all the thrones of Europe, a slight movement was manifested in Madrid, Seville, and other of the principal cities of Spain in behalf of liberty. But on the part of the majority of the people there was no response to the call.
In the year 1854 another feeble attempt was made to throw off the yoke of despotism. But there was no general uprising, no true bond of union among those who did rise, no feasible and enlightened plan for building up a new edifice after tearing down the old one. With but little difficulty the Government crushed this movement.
Fourteen years more passed away. In the mean time Isabella had added none to the number of her friends, and had been rapidly multiplying her enemies. Those who had rallied around her in her childhood had given her the popular name of Isabella the Innocent. But youth and innocence had disappeared. She was now called Isabella the Obstinate. No pleasant stories were circulated of her amiability, her tenderness, her generosity. The traits she developed were masculine and repulsive. There was not a bolder rider among all her grenadiers. Her favorite amusements were shooting, fishing and hunting. She was foremost in the pursuit of the boar and the stag, and was delighted when she succeeded in wounding the animal with her own weapon. With her brawny arms she could drive, four in hand, with a skill which might excite the envy of the most accomplished coachman. An ungovernable horse threw his rider, an officer, and killed him. Isabella, it is reported, ordered the horse to be brought into the courtyard, mounted him, and scourged him into submission. As she alighted she said coolly, "The animal is well enough. The officer deserved to be killed. He did not know how to ride." Such was the reputation of Isabella, and such the reports circulated in reference to her. In fact she became a practical illustration of woman's right to be a man. Unfortunately man has imbibed the opinion that such a woman forfeits all claim to his chivalric devotion, and that he has a right to treat her as he would any male cavalier, whiskered and bearded.
Isabella was thus left with but few friends except the dissolute courtiers who were the inmates of the palace. Her unblushing immoralities alienated the better part of the clergy. Her haughty airs and her ingratitude repelled those who would gladly have rallied around her banners. She had no personal popularity. Still the masses of the people were contented with the civil and ecclesiastical servitude which marked her reign. The peasants were governed by the priests, and the priests by the Pope. Both Pope and priests were opposed to any change in the line of civil and religious liberty, for such a change imperilled the domination of the Catholic Church.
While affairs were in this condition, the Duke of Montpensier was residing, with his irreproachable bride, Louisa, in the palace of St. Telmo, at Seville. He strongly disapproved of the conduct of Isabella, and of the political measures she was pursuing. There was consequently ever-increasing alienation between the court at Madrid and the inmates of the ducal palace at Seville.
The Duchess of Montpensier visited her sister, and informed her, it is reported, very frankly that neither she nor her husband could approve of the measures of the Government; that they clearly foresaw that a catastrophe was approaching; that they would not exert any influence against her, but that, should the throne be overturned, they could not recognize either of her children as the direct heir to the throne.
This was surely a singular communication for one sister to make to another. The queen's eldest living child was a daughter, Maria Isabella, who was married to Count Girgenti, a Neapolitan noble. Her son, Alfonso, was about eleven years of age. Isabella was, of course, very angry with Louisa. She informed her sister that she might prolong her visit to the court at Madrid so long as she saw fit to do so, provided that she made no allusion again to political affairs.
There were three parties in Spain, small in numbers, and confined almost exclusively to the great cities, who were restless, and in favor of change. One of these parties was composed of those called Radical Democrats. They were in favor of the entire reorganization of society upon the basis of the repudiation of all religion, of the family relation, and of private property. Another party desired what they called a moderate republic, where there should be a strong government, guarding liberty by efficient law. Still another wished to maintain the ancient monarchy, but to imbue it with the spirit of constitutional reform. These three parties, when united, composed but a small minority of the masses of the people, who, imbruted by ignorance, had no desire for change.
The priests generally, as we have said, were afraid even of any reform. They knew not how far it might go. It might introduce free schools, free speech, a free press, freedom of conscience, and freedom of worship. The very idea of a republic they detested. With the cry that the Church was in danger they could rouse the blind fury of fanatical millions. Thus the embarrassments in the way of reform seemed to be insuperable. The queen, however, was alarmed. She feared that a sudden insurrection in the streets of Madrid might wrest the crown from her brow and place it upon the head of her sister Louisa.
The queen, under these circumstances, decided to strike what she deemed an effective blow. She issued, early in July, 1868, a decree banishing from Spain eight illustrious Spaniards, who were supposed to have great influence with the Liberal party. At the same time she ordered into exile the Duke and Duchess of Montpensier. This roused great indignation, not among the millions of the peasantry, but among the few thousands of the Progressionists in the cities. It also forced the discordant opposition into united action. It was decided by the leaders to combine their energies to overthrow the government of the queen, and then to deliberate upon the form of government which should take its place. This was a hazardous step, as it imperilled the introduction of anarchy.
It was not even alleged that the Duke and Duchess of Montpensier had entered into any plot against the crown, though manifestly their presence and popularity were an encouragement to the disaffected. It was evident that they would prove very available candidates for the vacant throne, should the queen be driven from it. The opposition, if successful in a revolutionary movement, would be very likely to rally upon them. It was almost certain that Spain would not renounce its monarchy. And it was obvious to most reflecting men that the high-minded, liberally-disposed Duke of Montpensier would be a very prominent candidate for the crown. His liberal political views would conciliate the Progressionists. The Bourbon blood which flowed in his veins and his alliance with the sister of the queen, who claimed heirship to the crown, would in a measure reconcile the advocates of the old regime. He was also decidedly, though liberally, a Catholic, and this would tend to reconcile the Church.
It is said the officers who, in obedience to the decree of exile, conveyed the duke and duchess to Lisbon, pledged themselves immediately to espouse his cause if he would allow his banner to be unfurled. Many of the exiled generals and statesmen were sent to the Canary Islands. Here they were so near to Spain that they were still consulted upon all important measures.
Affairs daily grew more menacing. The queen with her dissolute and voluptuous band of courtiers was left almost without support. The court was afraid to remain in Madrid, where so many of the restless spirits in the realm were congregated. Several prominent officers in the army and the state resigned their commissions. On the 15th of August, 1868, the court repaired to San Sebastian, on the extreme northern frontier of Spain. The assigned reason was to visit the baths there for the sake of the queen's health. The real reason was to get away from Madrid, and to seek counsel and aid from the Emperor of France. The Emperor and Empress of France were about to visit Biarritz, not far from Bayonne. Isabella, much deceived as to the true state of affairs, imagined that the friends of the Duke of Montpensier were intriguing against her, and that his influence was all that she had to fear. And she had adopted the erroneous idea that the French Emperor would be irreconcilably opposed to the occupation of the throne of Spain by a son of Louis Philippe. As her father, Ferdinand VII., had sought the aid of Napoleon I. at Bayonne, so she had decided to make an appeal to Napoleon III. at Biarritz.
But the Emperor, warned by the disasters which his uncle, Napoleon I., encountered, in his endeavors to regenerate Spain, wished to avoid all entanglement in Spanish affairs. Isabella telegraphed impatiently to Paris to ascertain when the Emperor would leave for Biarritz. But Napoleon, perhaps wishing to avoid an interview, day after day postponed his journey. It was for the interests of France that there should be a stable government in Spain to develop its resources. There was nothing to be hoped for from the government of Isabella. France had nothing to fear from the Duke of Montpensier. It was the fundamental principle of Napoleon's policy that the people, by the voice of universal suffrage, had a right to choose their own form of government and their own rulers. Should the people of Spain choose the Duke of Montpensier for their king, France was ready to give him a cordial recognition.
While the queen and her court were thus tarrying at San Sebastian, the conspiracy, which had widely spread among the officers of the army and the navy, developed itself in open insurrection at Cadiz on the morning of the 18th of September, 1868. This city, the most democratic in Spain, is an important sea-port and naval depot at the southern extremity of the peninsula. The city was aroused by salvos of artillery from the squadron, which announced itself in insurrection. The garrison on shore, with answering guns, and shout re-echoing shout, responded to the appeal from the ships. The populace of the city, with scarcely a dissenting voice, fraternized with the sailors and the soldiers. The queen in her devotion to voluptuous indulgence, had made so little preparation for such an event, that there was scarcely a sword drawn or a musket raised in her defense. There were a few conflicts, but they were trivial in importance.
Four days before the outbreak a steamer had appeared, as the sun was going down, off the Canaries. It was commanded by M. Adelard de Ayala, a gentleman highly distinguished as a dramatic poet, as an eloquent speaker and writer, and as a deputy who had been exiled from Madrid in 1867, in consequence of his earnest protest against the violation of the constitution. There was probably an understanding with the military authorities on the island; for in the night the steamer took on board the exiled generals, leaving one behind who was sick, and on the morning of the 19th landed them at Cadiz, where they found the insurrection accomplished. In the mean time General Prim had arrived from England and other leaders from other quarters.
The insurrection was a military movement almost exclusively. The people had but little to do with it. At Seville and Malaga, the garrisons, upon receiving the tidings from Cadiz, immediately adopted the example of the troops there. The populace in these cities, very ignorant and unambitious, listlessly followed the lead of the army. Thus in a few days the insurrection had gained the most formidable position. It had a fleet, an army, able generals, arsenals, with arms and ammunition in abundance, fortresses, and three populous cities. These few generals, who had originated and carried out the movement thus far, were agreed only upon one point; and that was the necessity of the overthrow of the wretched government of the queen. This being accomplished, they were then to decide what government should take its place. In the proclamations which the generals issued they said:
"We desire only a provisory government, representing all the forces of the Government, to secure order, and that universal suffrage should lay the foundation of our social and political regeneration."
The tidings of this insurrection created intense excitement at San Sebastian. The queen immediately appointed General Concha, president of the council, and sent him to Madrid with almost dictatorial powers. The council, which the queen had left in Madrid, in twenty minutes after hearing the tidings from Cadiz, had scattered and fled. With great vigor the insurgents availed themselves of the advantages which they had already secured. General Prim, with a few frigates, sailed along the eastern coasts of Spain, stopping at the important points—at Carthagena, Valence, and Barcelona. Here the garrisons were all ready to give in their adhesion to the revolution, and the people, with more or of less alacrity, followed their lead.
General Serrano remained in Andalusia, in command of the insurrectionary troops garrisoned at Cadiz and Seville. Aided by other influential generals, he organized a small army of about twelve thousand men and marched upon Cordova. There were none found to oppose his banners. Almost without a struggle the whole of Southern Spain was gained over to the revolution. In the mean time the queen was at San Sebastian, trembling, vacillating, and doing nothing.
For eight clays General Concha, the new president of the council, remained at Madrid, vainly exercising his dictatorial powers to organize a government which could present some show of resistance to the insurgents. But already a revolutionary committee, called a junta, was established at Madrid. General Concha soon found himself compelled to enter into communications with these revolutionary chiefs, and by this recognition, became entangled in the movement. The queen was in great perplexity. Her best advisers—and they were very poor ones—had left her. It was perilous to go to Madrid, as she might fall into the hands of the revolutionists. General Concha urged that she should hasten to the capital, leaving her obnoxious court behind her. Isabella had a special favorite, without whom she would not go to Madrid. General Concha deemed it ruinous to her cause to have this favorite accompany her.
The queen's whole force had dwindled down to a small military band of a few thousand men in the vicinity of Cordova. Though faithful to their colors, they were inspired with no enthusiasm for the defense of the queen. The Marquis of Novaliches led them. General Pavia, with the revolutionary forces, encountered them on the banks of the Guadalquiver, a few leagues from Cordova. After a short but decisive battle, the queen's troops were utterly routed. The Marquis of Novaliches received a terrible wound. There was no longer any show of resistance. The revolution was accomplished.
Thus the queen, after an inglorious, a shameful reign of thirty-four years, during which nothing had been done for the elevation of Spain, found that her throne had crumbled beneath her feet. Already in the streets of San Sebastian, the murmurs of the disaffected reached her ears. She was no longer queen, save to the few members of her own household. There was no escape from captivity but by an immediate flight to France. Even her pretended personal friends were now abandoning her, as she had no more favors to confer.
Fortunately for Isabella, she was still immensely rich. Avarice had been one of her vices. With a small band of courtiers, some thirty or forty men and women, and a vast accumulation of treasure, the queen crossed the Pyrenees into the territory of France, and took refuge in the Chateau of Pau, which had been the cradle of the Bourbon race. General Concha fled from Madrid. A revolutionary junta assumed power there, as did the same organization in all the leading cities of Spain. The Bourbon monarchy was overthrown. And now arose the agitating question What government shall succeed it?
It will be perceived that this wonderful revolution was achieved almost exclusively by the army. The army was controlled by a few leading men, and submissively followed their orders. The vast majority of the benighted and enslaved people of Spain looked wonderingly on, and took no part in the movement. One after another these military leaders repaired to Madrid. Each one received an ovation. They were determined men, all of them, Generals Prim, Serrano, Topete, and Caballero de Rodas. The watchword which resounded through the streets was not "Down with the monarchy," or "Live the republic," but simply "Down with the Bourbons." The revolution was thus far only a protest against the unendurable absolutism of Isabella. All parties had united upon that point.
A provisory government was soon organized to meet the emergencies of the passing hour, and to decide upon the Governmental organization which Spain should adopt. In different portions of Spain there were a few bloody insurrections where the antagonistic parties endeavored to gain the ascendency. There was one very serious conflict at Cadiz, and another at Malaga. In most of these cases the Monarchists threw the blame upon the Democrats, and the Democrats upon the Monarchists. In Burgos the governor endeavored to seize upon the treasures of the cathedral, in behalf of the revolutionists. The peasants fell upon him with true Spanish fury, and literally tore him to pieces.
A very able writer upon this subject, in the Revue des Deux Mondes, M. Charles de Mazade, says: "This revolution, notwithstanding its appearance of force, contained within itself the elements of weakness. It was not the people who effected it. The people did not really show themselves until it was finished. All other revolutions have made its generals or its marshals. This has made its own, and that is Prim. Serrano and Prim, were they co-operating intelligently? Had they long understood each other? Which of the two would have the most ascendency over the army? This was the question. It is very certain that without Prim and Serrano the revolution could not have taken place."
The provisional government consisted at first of a small cabinet council composed of the leaders of the Monarchical, Republican, and Democratic parties. Even these parties had their subdivisions. The first step to be taken was to elect a Cortes, or Congress. It was promised that the nation should be appealed to, and that this Congress should be chosen by universal suffrage. But singularly enough the Monarchists and even the Absolutists were ready for this appeal. But the Republicans and the Democrats, conscious that they were greatly in the minority, and fully aware of the influence of the priests over the peasantry, did not dare to submit to the whole people the question of choosing their own form of government. They even feared that the people, by an overwhelming vote, might restore the old regime of absolutism; and it was morally certain that they would reject a republic and establish a monarchy. Thus they postponed the elections as long as possible.
M. Olozaga, with great force of eloquence and power of argument, urged the example of France in the establishment of the Empire, and that the question should be immediately submitted to the direct vote of the whole people what the form of government should be. There was not a sane man in Spain who doubted that the result would be an overwhelming vote for a monarchy. The Democratic party was indignant at the proposition of submitting the question to universal suffrage, and declared it to be stealing a march upon them. In a Congress, however chosen, they had more chance of success, or at least of modifying the result, than in an appeal to the whole people. They threatened to break the alliance. This would have magnified the danger of civil war. The idea, therefore, of an appeal to the popular vote was abandoned.
It is said that there can be no question that had the Duke of Montpensier been in Spain at the time of the defeat of the Marquis of Novaliches, he would have been instantly proclaimed king by the victorious army, and would have been cordially accepted by the people. Conscientiously a Catholic, in accordance with the teachings of his revered father and mother, the ecclesiastics would have accepted him, in their dread of republicanism, which in Spain was decidedly infidel in its tendencies. As the duke had seen much of the world, had been schooled in adversity, and cherished enlarged and liberal views upon both political and religious questions, most of those who were in favor of a constitutional monarchy, and many who personally were in favor of a republic, would have sustained him as the best measure to be adopted under the circumstances.
General Serrano, General Topete, M. Olozaga, all of whom were among the most prominent men in the revolution, were in principle very decided Monarchists, as the only form of government then adapted to the people of Spain, and in harmony with the surrounding institutions. Even General Prim, who theoretically perhaps was a strenuous Republican, yielded to the idea of a monarchy, saying, "To establish a republic, there must be Republicans." Many even of the most distinguished Democrats, as M. Rivero, M. Christino Martos, M. Becerra, rallied around the monarchy as a necessity of the moment. A parliamentary and constitutional monarchy, sanctioned by a national vote, would be a very decided step in the path of human rights. In the opinion of the great majority of the most sagacious men in Spain, it was as great a reform as Spain could, by any possibility, be then induced to accept. It would also, by its harmony with surrounding institutions, disarm Europe of hostility, and thus be a guaranty of external and internal peace.
In the midst of these agitations, the Carlist party, which had so long deluged Spain in the blood of civil war, again came forward with its claims for the crown. Several other parties sprang up, each urging its candidate. One party brought forward Ferdinand of Portugal; another, Prince Alfred of England; another, the Duke of Montpensier.
Great wisdom and forbearance were requisite, in these perilous hours, to restrain these antagonisms from an appeal to arms.
A radical Democrat is almost of necessity a very bold, energetic, self-reliant man. He is positive in his opinions, always armed, morally and physically, and ready for a conflict. The extreme Democratic party was small, confined to the cities; and though it was able to make a loud noise, it was quite uninfluential in its assaults upon the Gibraltar rock of priestly fanaticism and popular superstition. It was indeed so small that it could hardly be deemed a party in Spain; it was rather a band of loud-talking, impetuous young men, adopting all sorts of theories upon political and socialistic economies. Still these men were in earnest. Fearlessly they discussed all questions. It was certainly their professed aim to promote the public good. In the cities they could make their voices heard; but their influence did not reach the cottages of the peasants. They numbered some men very eminent as writers and declaimers. Prominent among these was M. Emilio Caster, formerly professor in the University of Madrid, and M. Margall, an eminent publicist.
At length a constituent assembly was chosen, consisting of about three hundred members. In the latter part of May, 1869, after long and stormy debates, the all-important question was taken respecting the form of government to be adopted. The subject was acted upon in two resolutions. The first was, "The sovereignty resides in the nation, and from it all the powers proceed." This was adopted by acclamation, there apparently not being a dissentient vote. That so enlightened a sentiment could have been adopted with such unanimity by a Cortes in benighted Spain is evidence that liberal principles have made very decided progress. Thus the old dogma of the divine right of kings, still so tenaciously held in certain parts of Europe, is probably banished forever from Spain.
Then came up for action the proposition that "the form of government of the Spanish nation is the monarchy." The question was taken by calling the roll, each member responding yea or nay. It was an imposing scene. In the midst of general silence and solemnity every deputy gave his vote in a clear, distinct voice. At the close of the voting the secretary read the lists. There were two hundred and fourteen votes in favor of a monarchy, and seventy-one against it. Thus, by a majority of one hundred and forty-three votes, the elective Spanish monarchy was decreed. Very many of the most ardent friends of liberal principles were in favor of this result. The arguments they presented have certainly much force. It was said—
"1. Every body will admit that the majority of the Spanish people are opposed to a republic. To force a republic upon a reluctant people would be as unjust as it would be impossible.
"2. Under monarchical forms, a government may be as free, as under republican forms. We may call our government a monarchy. We may call our supreme executive, elected for life, King instead of president; and yet the governmental institutions may be devoted to liberty and equality.
"3. Electing our king, and electing him to execute the constitution which we draw up, we may intrust him with just so much power as seems best to us. The Queen of England has less power than the President of the United States.
"4. Monarchical forms have always prevailed in Spain. The people are accustomed to them, attached to them. It will be far more easy to imbue those forms with the spirit of liberty, than to introduce new names and new organizations which will perplex and alarm the people.
"5. All the governments around us are monarchical in form. They will much more cheerfully assent to the progress of free institutions in Spain, if we remain in external harmony with them, and cordially join their brotherhood. The ostentatious establishment of a republic might be regarded by them in the light of a defiance, and would endanger war, which, above all things, it is for our interests to avoid.
"6. Our constitution will be elastic, so as to admit of reforms and progress, as the people become more enlightened and prepared for enlargement of liberty. And thus we may legally, constitutionally, attain the great end sought, of national progression and power, without the horrors of bloody revolutions."
It is not improbable that the course pursued by the Cortes is the wisest one. Spain has made an immense advance in the path of progress. She has taken as long a stride as it was perhaps possible for her to take under the circumstances. Following the example of France, she is surrounding a throne with republican institutions. Thus, like France, she may avoid the awful calamity of civil and foreign wars, and advance rapidly in the career of material and moral prosperity. It is evident that the example of France is exerting a powerful influence upon leading minds in Spain.
The United States ambassador at the Court of France, General John A. Dix, after two years and a half of residence in Paris, during which he became intimately acquainted with the Emperor and the workings of the Imperial Government, gives the following account of the bloodless progress of liberty there. And it is understood that his views are in accord with those of the two preceding American ambassadors at the French court, as also of very many of the most distinguished residents of the United States in the French capital.
On Tuesday evening, the first of June, 1869, a complimentary dinner was given by the American residents in Paris to General Dix, as he was about to surrender to the Honorable Mr. Washburne his office as ambassador. Four hundred ladies and gentlemen were present. The eloquent speech which General Dix made on the occasion is fully reported in the Paris Continental Gazette of June 3rd. In that speech General Dix, in the following terms, expresses his views of the workings of the Imperial Government:
"LADIES AND GENTLEMEN,—
I can not sit down without saying a few words to you in regard to the Government under the protection of which you are living. Between France and the United States there has been, from the earliest period, a strong bond of affinity, which ought never to be broken. The advantages enjoyed in Paris by the American colony, which has become so populous as almost to constitute a distinct feature in the physiognomy of the city, can be by none better appreciated than by ourselves. We are as completely under the protection of the Government as the citizens of France, and we are required to contribute nothing directly to its support. We are living without personal taxation or exactions of any sort in this most magnificent of modern capitals, full of objects of interest, abounding in all that gratify the taste, as well as in sources of solid information; and these treasures of art and of knowledge are freely opened to our inspection and use.
"Nor is this all. We are invited to participate most liberally, far more liberally than in any other court in Europe, in the hospitalities of the palace. I have myself; during the two years and a half of my service here, presented to their imperial majesties more than three hundred of our fellow-citizens of both sexes. And a much larger number, presented in former years, have, during the same period, shared the same courtesies.
"With these associations of the past and the present, the prosperity of this great empire can not be a matter of indifference to us. And it speaks strongly in favor of the illustrious sovereign who, for the last twenty years, has held its destinies in his hands, that the condition of the people, materially and intellectually, has been constantly improving, and that the aggregate prosperity of the country is greater perhaps, at the present moment, than at any former period.
"It is worthy of remark, too, that the venerable leader of the opposition in the Corps Legislatif (M. Thiers), one of those remarkable men who leave the impress of their opinions on the age in which they live, recently declared that the Government, in many essential respects, was in a course of liberal progress. As you know, debates in that body on questions of public policy are unrestricted. They are reported with great accuracy, and promptly published in the official journal and other newspaper presses. And thus the people of France are constantly advised of all that is said for or against the administrative measures which concern their interests.
"In liberal views, and in that comprehensive forecast which shapes the policy of the present to meet the exigencies of the future, the Emperor seems to me to be decidedly in advance of his ministers, and even of the popular body, chosen by universal suffrage to aid him in his legislative labors."
Such is the testimony of a gentleman of the highest position and intelligence, an influential member of the Democratic party in the United States, and who, by a residence of nearly three years in Paris as ambassador, has enjoyed the best possible opportunity of understanding the influence and tendencies of the government which France, with such singular unanimity, has adopted.
It is not strange that this successful working of the Empire in France should have led many of the most zealous advocates for reform in Spain to regard the Empire as essentially the model upon which to reorganize their government. When the populace of Paris overthrew the throne of Charles X., and the bankers of the capital, controlling the Chamber of Deputies, established the throne of Louis Philippe, Lafayette said, in a voice which resounded throughout the whole civilized world,
"Though I deem a republic, theoretically, the best form of government, still I am persuaded that we can not, at present, establish and maintain a republic in France. That which is necessary for France now is a throne, surrounded by republican institutions."
If Lafayette, with his strong republican predilections, deemed monarchical forms essential to France, the opinions of those enlightened Spaniards should be respected who, in reference to their own country, have come to the same conclusion. Napoleon I. often remarked that he was the creature of circumstances; that he could seldom do what he wished to do, but was compelled to modify his policy in accordance with those events which ever exert an almost omnipotent control. Even upon the supposition that it were right for the Cortes in Madrid, numbering about three hundred men, to force upon Spain, by means of the army, a republic which the people did not desire, it is very doubtful whether the Cortes could possibly have done this. Civil war would have been the inevitable consequence of the attempt. Spain has a population of over fifteen millions. Of these, according to the most accurate statistics which can be obtained, there are not over five hundred thousand of all the varied shades of democracy in favor of a republic. Could these five hundred thousand, much divided among themselves, force fifteen millions to accept a government to which they were opposed?
According to the last census, the population of the Spanish peninsula, including the Belearic Islands and the Canaries, was 15,658,586. Of these, only 3,124,410 could read and write. If there be a large majority of intelligent and virtuous people in a country in favor of a republic, such a form of government can be maintained, even with quite a considerable minority ignorant and degraded. But how is it possible that a republic can be established, founded necessarily upon universal suffrage, when the majority of the people are not only ignorant and debased, but also opposed to republican institutions. One is reminded of General Prim's quaint remark, that "Republicans are essential to a republic."
A constitution clearly defining and limiting the legislative, judicial, and executive powers of the Government, containing within itself provisions for modifications and reforms, thus avoiding the necessity of a resort to the horrors of revolution; a monarch of high character and liberal principles elected for life; a Senate, consisting of a definite number of men, appointed by the crown for life from those who, by their abilities and services, have conferred honor upon their country; a House of Representatives, chosen by universal suffrage, without whose concurrence no law can be passed; freedom of worship; freedom of speech and of the press, restrained by the law if libelous; equal rights before the law for every man: such is the constitution which regenerated France has adopted, and under which it has risen, during the past twenty years, to a position of prosperity, power, and happiness such as the nation never enjoyed before. In many respects this constitution is very decidedly in advance of the British Constitution in the line of popular rights.
Spain has made this constitution the basis of its new organization. It is an immense advance from the old regime of absolutism. It is as great an advance as can probably now be made. It is an advance in the right direction. "A constitution," said Napoleon I., "is the work of time. We can not leave too large scope for its emendations."
The French Constitution was adopted by the people of France by seven million four hundred and thirty-nine thousand two hundred and sixteen affirmative votes. There were but six hundred and forty thousand seven hundred and thirty-seven in the negative.
Our Spanish brethren, in the tremendous struggle in which they have engaged in behalf of popular rights, have encountered obstacles apparently insuperable. There is no form of government which can be adopted which will not be met by fierce opposition. The Republicans will denounce a monarchy. The Monarchists will assail a republic. Should the fanatic majority imbue the monarchy with the despotic spirit of the old regime, the cities will be agitated with conspiracies and insurrections. Should the spirit of reform prevail, demolishing old abuses, confiscating the enormous property of the Church, and granting freedom of conscience, which will give rise to innumerable infidel clubs and infidel journals, the priests will brandish daggers in the pulpits as they rouse the fanatic masses with the cry of "Death to the enemies of the Church."
The Provisional Government, in its calm address to the electors, says: "The unexpected vehemence with which certain ideas have been proclaimed, obliges the Government to reiterate energetically its own; so that it may not, by any possibility, be imagined that they have faltered in their convictions. The Provisional Government believes the future of liberal institutions will be more securely guaranteed by the solemn and successful establishment of the monarchical principle than if submitted to the dangerous essay of a new form of government, without historical precedents in Spain, and without examples in Europe worthy of imitation.
"They desire sincerely that the representatives of the nation may raise a throne, surrounded with the indispensable prestige, and invested with its natural prerogatives, so that rivalry being impossible, it may facilitate order, and be the permanent and solid basis of our liberties."
A correspondent of the New York Herald, writing from Cadiz under date of May 26th, 1869, says:
"A conspiracy has been discovered among the artillery officers which had for its object the proclaiming of Isabella. This arm of the military power never gave its hearty adhesion to the September revolution. It simply bowed to the blast which swept the Bourbon throne from the Peninsula. The artillery is officered by the scions of the so-called best families, is very aristocratic, and scorns republicanism. Dissatisfaction has existed in the army since Prim was appointed secretary of war. It has increased by his gross favoritism, and the bungling way he carries on business.
"The navy is not a whit more reliable than the artillery. Unaccustomed on shipboard to the annual pronunciamientos, which have made Spain a by-word throughout the world, it has no sympathy with innovations, and I verily believe that to-morrow it would shout Viva la Reina, if there was a fair prospect of its being indorsed by the troops.
"The naval officers have never removed the crown from their caps and uniforms. The artillery did not. They have no sympathy with any kind of government but the monarchical. The day before yesterday Serrano and Prim stated in the Cortes that the reorganization of the volunteers was necessary to combat the enemies of the revolutionists."
In the following terms the writer above quoted describes a visit to one of the leading revolutionists:
"I paid a visit to Salvochea lately. He is unquestionably the most popular man in this city and province—in all Andalusia—and will make his mark before many years. After many greetings, I asked him:
"'Do you think Isabella has many friends in the army?'
"'I think so,' he replied, 'but I don't know nor care.'
"'Who is the favorite of the army for king?'
"Smiling sarcastically, he answered, ' Every officer has his favorite. The old ones favor the queen or her son. The young ones are for the person who will promote them.'
"'Is there no general favorite—one who is more popular than the others?'
"'No!' he replied; 'not one of the aspirants has a sincere friend in the army, unless it be among the superannuated ones, who are indebted to Isabella for more than they have deserved. But they are what you call in America old fogies.'
"'Has not the Duke of Montpensier a large party in the army?'
"'He may have,' was the reply, 'but I don't think so. He will never be King of Spain; and, I am sure, never President of the Spanish Republic.'
"'Would you not favor a king with a liberal constitution like Belgium or England?'
"'No, sir;' he rejoined. 'Kings have had their day. They were an evil in the best of times, but a curse in an age of railroads and telegraphs. A republic is the only hope of Spain. But there will be blows given and received before its representative sits in Madrid!'
"'What do you think of the strong speeches against the Catholic faith lately delivered in the Cortes?'
"'I don't admire any kind of religion,' he replied. 'But I doubt the utility of the late expositions on theology. There is no use of losing time with such stuff and nonsense.'
"A few words of farewell, and we parted; he to endeavor to have the gallant militia of Cadiz armed with the best breech-loaders, and your correspondent to his writing-table. Salvochea is a thin, lean, nervous young man, who will make his mark or lose his head before many years. He looks the conspirator from top to toe, from head to foot. But whether he is laboring for the benefit and glory of himself or for Spain, is involved in obscurity. But the Spanish politician is the most selfish of animals, and has no love of country like other people. His native village and province are his country. Out of them he is abroad."
On the 17th of June, 1869, Marshal Serrano was installed Regent of Spain. The ceremony took place at Madrid in the presence of a large and brilliant assemblage. After the administration of a very solemn oath to obey the constitution, which had recently been formed, the regent, in a very brief address to the Deputies, said:
"With the creation of the constitutional power which you have deigned to confide to me, and which I gratefully accept, a new period of the revolution of September commences. We have raised the stone which weighed upon Spain, and we have afterwards constituted her under the monarchical form, traditional with our people, but surrounded with democratic institutions. The hour has now arrived to enroll and consolidate the conquests realized, so that the monarch whom the Cortes may hereafter elect may commence his reign prosperously and happily for the country."
The true patriots in Spain demand our sympathies in the tremendous struggle through which they are passing. If they can abolish all exclusive privileges, and establish a throne upon the basis of equal rights for all men, and thus lead on in the path of ever-increasing liberty, protected by law from the horrors of bloody insurrections and revolutions, Heaven may rejoice, and earth be glad. A long dark night of sorrow has been theirs. The morning has dawned, but it has dawned luridly through storm-clouds still gathering in the sky. May God guide and bless that agitated portion of the universal brotherhood, and from these scenes of confusion evolve peace, prosperity, and happiness.
It is the misfortune of Spain, debased by ages of oppression, that she can not, at a single stride, advance from absolutism to a well-ordered republic. But she has entered the path. And every friend of human liberty and happiness must pray that she may attain the end of popular liberty and stable law by progressive constitutional reforms, and no longer by the horrors of civil war and the shedding of fraternal blood. The saddest of all earthly studies is the study of history. The most heartrending of all tragedies is the tragedy of the life, thus far, of the human race. In view of these scenes of woe extending through lingering centuries, one can scarce refrain from exclaiming, with weeping eyes, "How long, O Lord, how long!"
Since writing the above, we have advices from Madrid up to the latter part of July, 1869. The intelligence is discouraging and gloomy in the extreme. The friends of reform are greatly divided among themselves, and find it very difficult to unite in any co-operative action. It is perhaps fortunate for them that their opponents are equally discordant in council. Though the "reactionists," as they are called, are a unit in their hatred of the revolution, and in their desire to reinstate the despotic throne of the Bourbons, still they are comprised in three very distinct and antagonistic parties.
The first, or Isabellinos, clamor for the restoration of their legitimate sovereign, Isabella II. The queen, through secret agents, supported by large portions of the clergy, and having immense sums of money at her disposal, is energetically co-operating with this party.
The second, or Alfonistas, urge the claims of Alfonso, Prince of the Asturias, the son of Isabella. It is said that his supporters are numerous, not only among the dignitaries of the realm and the nobles in Madrid, but that many influential members of the Cortes are in favor of his claims.
The third, or Carlists, support Don Carlos. He is the representative of the Carlos, brother of Ferdinand, who, through so many years of blood and misery, contested the throne with Isabella. Different accounts are given of the precise relationship of this young man to the former Don Carlos. He claims however to be his heir, and by the Carlist party is recognized as such. His adherents are generally the ultra Church party, and others of the most uncompromising advocates of absolute power.
While the Legitimists are thus divided, there is equal want of union in the ranks of the Progressionists, or Liberal party. At the present moment it is divided essentially as follows, though very important changes may take place at almost any moment. Perhaps first in influence is the party of the Duke of Montpensier, seeking to reconcile Europe by paying some apparent respect to legitimacy in placing a Bourbon on the throne, but selecting a man of liberal political principles.
Secondly come those decided monarchists who would utterly reject the Bourbons, but would transfer the sceptre to some successful Spanish general. But there is no one chieftain prominent enough to gain the general vote. As Salvochea says, "Every officer has his favorite."
Thirdly, there is the Republican party, greatly divided into bitterly discordant factions, of moderate and radical Republicans and ultra Democrats. When, in addition to such irreconcilable antagonism among the most enlightened men, who should be the leaders of the nation, we reflect that the millions of the populace, debased by ages of misrule, are in the lowest state of ignorance, the dupes of superstition, and quite under the control of the most corrupt priesthood in Europe, it would seem that there could be but little hope for Spain. Dark indeed is the cloud which now hangs over that benighted land. God alone can span this cloud with the bow of promise.